I want to briefly clarify what I mean when I speculate that first-person purposeful experience is a part of the natural world. Using the word purpose can lead to misunderstanding because it is so often part of the construction “higher purpose”. Because I subscribe to philosophical (or metaphysical) naturalism, I do not believe the world includes supernatural entities or interventions. Thus in investigating the world there is no appealing to “higher purpose” (or “intelligent design”, for that matter).
But I believe naturalism can and should include first-person experience as an ingredient in the fabric of the world (the philosophical position known as panexperientialism). I have further speculated that this experiential element does some work in the world, and this work consists of the modification of natural events to serve the purpose of the participating experiencing system. This happens within a limited scope consistent with our observations of physical phenomena. Further out on a limb, I speculate that it is at the subtle level of quantum events (measurements) that this modification takes place in nature.
Now, I may be wrong about all this, but it won’t be because it is inconsistent with the methods or prior findings of science. The room for my speculations is opened up due to the fact that the prevailing materialist or physicalist versions of naturalism fail to account for first-person experience. And modifying or expanding naturalism to include experience need not lead to any slippery slopes to irrational or supernatural beliefs.